Surviving the Holidays During Divorce

By: Alexandra L. Cipolla M.S

Surviving the Holidays During Divorce

Surviving the holidays during divorce can be one of the most challenging times in a person’s life, especially if there are children involved. As parents, we try to make the holidays as joyous and memorable as we can. However, when parents have decided to separate, they must remember that no matter the time of year, it will be difficult, albeit not impossible, as many couples have ended their marriage and can move forward positively. One must remember not to harbor resentment that the family is not together during the holidays, but that the family will be creating new ways to celebrate and create new memories.

Dividing the Holidays

When deciding to separate, a parent will be flooded with different ideas for dividing the holiday so that the children may celebrate with both parents. After separating, if it is the first holiday season, it may help to keep a journal of your ideas for how to divide or rotate the holidays. Parents must always keep in mind what is in their children’s best interests.

For example, one way to survive the holidays during divorce is if one parent’s family celebrates Christmas Eve while the other parent’s family celebrates Christmas Day. It would make sense to divide the holiday. By dividing the holiday, the possibility of the overnight being alternated so that both children and parents can have the benefit of opening presents Christmas morning. It would be best if you considered what portion of the holiday will best serve the children and their ability to spend quality time with one parent and their side of the family.

Self-Care During the Holidays is Important

When going through a divorce or separation during the holidays, one must also remember that the holidays are already a stressful time, and a looming divorce will only add to the stress. However, do not think for one second that you will not get through it! It is essential to take care of one’s self during this time as much as possible.

Whether it is:

  • Seeking counseling for parents and children,
  • Taking time off work to spend time with the children,
  • Making happy memories,

The holidays are the time to do it.

The holidays are the time not only for the parent but, more importantly, the children. If parents can avoid the children seeing stress, anxiety, or depression during the divorce and holidays, the easier it is for the children to process.

For example, if the children see that mom/dad is still decorating for the holidays or baking their favorite cookies, they will see that the divorce is not necessarily a “bad” thing. They will see that traditions are not changing even though one parent may have moved out of the family home.

Keeping Old Traditions is Important for Consistency

As stated previously, surviving the holidays during divorce means keeping old traditions which are vital for consistency with the children, it is also beneficial to start new traditions for you and the children to see that life will go on after the divorce. It may be helpful that new traditions are formed during this time.

For instance, a parent taking the children to volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal rescue might be a new tradition. The children will see that the parent is making positive changes, and helping others always provides fulfillment in one’s life. Further, this is also an excellent time to start reaching out to family members and friends for support. Having support systems in place and available while navigating the dissolution process is beneficial to both the parents and the children.

Should we wait until after the holidays?

Many people struggle with the thought of divorcing during the holidays. Should parents stay together through the holidays for the sake of the children? The answer to that question depends entirely on the parent and their ability to process the divorce and the holidays simultaneously.

If a parent cannot process both, then do not. However, if the holidays will be negatively affected by parents staying together, meaning the children will not have a good holiday experience, it may be best to move forward with the separation and beginning new traditions, as stated previously.

What is in the best interest of the children?

Parents often must weigh the decision to stay together for the sake of the children’s holiday experience versus separating, which they assume will also negatively affect the children. Still, it may not be worse than having the children experience a tense and challenging holiday season. The question remains, what is in the best interest of the children? Parents know their children best, but they may also gain insight with a mediator, therapist, or counselor.

What is best for you and your children?

Whichever way parents choose to proceed through this challenging time is up to them and what they believe is best for themselves and the children. What one must remember is that attitude is everything.

  • Can the parent continue to have a positive attitude during the holidays, whether the parents plan to stick it out or choose to separate?
  • Can holiday shopping now include new items for children living in two homes?
  • Will that be exciting or depressing?

Surviving the holidays during divorce is dependent on the parent’s outlook. If a parent is hopeful and optimistic, it helps the children also to be hopeful and optimistic. Remember that however parents choose to proceed, the children are watching and looking to the parents for emotional guidance.


© 2020 Alexandra L. Cipolla. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Alexandra L. Cipolla is a mediator assisting clients through the dissolution process. Alexandra is an experienced mediator trained to help clients engage in balanced discussions and negotiations to obtain a resolution in the divorce. Alexandra is currently mediating at Connecticut Mediation Center and was previously employed by the State of Connecticut as a Family Relations Counselor. She was a court-appointed mediator at Hartford Superior Court.

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